Phew – he’s not really dead after all! Or, is he?
HUGE, HONKING, TIMEY-WIMEY, MIND-FLUMMOXING SPOILERS from herein…
“The Wedding of River Song” was a glorious piece of television. Steven Moffat’s modus operandi as Head “Who” Honcho has been to demand that you pay attention. No Tweeting from the sofa as you half-watch an episode, no parallel podcast catch-ups, no scanning “Hello” for Kate and Pippa’s latest antics. You’ve got to watch, you should pay attention and you will be rewarded if you have the patience and commitment to enjoy really good television. Kids manage that, so what’s the excuse for the vocal section of the casual audience who apparently have issue with following a drama if it demands that you be invested in it? It couldn’t be – El Gaspo! – that adults are pretty crap when it comes to giving their attention to stuff, could it?
So, the episode then? Work of genius. No cheating, some conclusions, a bunch of jaw-dropping moments and hints at What Will Come To Pass.
We catch up with the Doctor in an bizarrely out-of-kilter London: Elevated steam trains running out of the Gherkin on elevated train lines, Charles Dickens on BBC Breakfast News with Bill & Sian and some seriously insistent prehistoric interruptions to any Hyde Park picnic and Holy Roman Emperor Winston Churchill has returned to the London Senate on his personal Brontosaurus.
So, time is messed-up and has been royally futzed-with when a fixed point in time – the Doctor’s death – doesn’t happen. That’s bad, as it turns out. Very bad. Like, ‘it’s permanently 5:02pm in the afternoon, time streams are bleeding through each other and nothing’s making a great deal of sense to the casual observer and the universe is probably going to eat itself, Ourobouros-style’ bad.
Something has to be done and Winston Churchill’s personal indentured Soothsayer, the Doctor, is being compelled to do something about it.
Matt Smith or Ziggy-era Bowie? You be the judge.
The Doctor is quite sanguine about his fate – in order to right the weirdness running amok in reality, he has to do the mother of all course corrections and die, meeting his end in Lake Silencio, as we’ve seen at the beginning of the season. But not without some timey-wimey wandering, information gathering and general catching up with The Silence.
The thing that I loved about this episode is how big it felt – most movies don’t have anywhere near this scope. Admittedly, films generally have two hours to tell a story and a tv series gets to stretch out for a season and have peaks, diversions, reversals and be serialised fiction – there’s a kind of implicitly languid quality in that increased time span which films don’t generally get to enjoy (The “Harry Potter” series being a noticeable exception to this rule that I’ve just made up rather arbitrarily).
The effects, sets and music were wonderful – you felt like you were watching a film, with all of the care paid to craft that you might hope.
And the reveals – oh man, the reveals! There’s stuff there which is kind of obvious when you think about (when you find out what the Silence’s question is, you will loudly exclaim – “OF FRAKKING COURSE THAT’S IT!”), stuff that knocks you for six and a real sense that this is one time that a tv show gets to go the reboot route and earn it.
Yes, this is a ‘game changer’, to use the phrase currently in popular parlance and it makes you wonder just where things are going to go next year. That will be a very interesting series, indeed. And a super cool one.
(Subliminal suggestion – Moffat rules)